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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cobb Citizens For Governmental Transparency, a citizens group made up of members from several local organizations, on Thursday called for a moratorium on any public spending relating to the Atlanta Braves new stadium, and a public vote before the county borrows money for stadium construction.

The Braves and Cobb County announced in November that $300 million in public money would go toward building a stadium in the Cumberland area, so that the Braves can move there for the 2017 season. In addition, county taxpayers will be responsible to pay $35 million to cover 30 years of capital maintenance.

The organization emailed a letter to Braves officials and county commissioners April 29, saying they believe county officials have attempted to "hide or manipulate information in order to prevent full public disclosure" of the stadium costs. That letter was hand-delivered to county offices after a Thursday morning press conference.

Rich Pellegrino, one of the group's leading spokesmen, said they have repeatedly asked Cobb government for transparency in the Braves deal only to receive "the royal run-around."

"We feel it's our duty as taxpayers and citizens, since we don't feel protected by our board of commissioners in relation to this, (to ask) for cessation or moratorium on any public spending," Pellegrino said. "We want the Braves to come here; we just want it done with financial accountability."

Pellegrino said his organization has received no response from either the county or the team. It emailed the letter to both on April 29.

Cobb County issued a statement that says it "looks forward to the new jobs and economic prosperity the Braves stadium will bring.

"We have remained steadfast in our commitment to an open and transparent process. All board actions on the stadium will continue to take place in public meetings, and related documents remain readily available to the public on our website."

In an emailed statement, Braves Director of Public Relations Beth Marshall said that team executives have met with several groups in Cobb to share details about a stadium deal. The Braves, Marshall said, have been "transparent in this process and any reports to the contrary are erroneous and misleading."

Pelegrino said the group wrote the letter after media reports about ancillary costs related to stadium construction.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported recently that the county will roll more than $18 million in borrowing costs into the debt --- raising the amount borrowed on behalf of taxpayers to $386 million. That amount includes $92 million being borrowed on behalf of the Braves, which the team will repay with $6.1 million in annual rent payments.

The AJC has also reported the county is facing millions in increased costs for public safety as a result of the ballpark.

"Weekly, there are fresh revelations of new, hidden or unanticipated costs, not revealed to the public by (commissioners) but by the media, while it has also become apparent that Cobb County cannot meet its present obligations and needs, especially related but not limited to education and public safety," the letter says.

John Loud, who helped create a website in support of the move, said there is no reason for any delay in public spending and that the public has had a say in the Braves move because they elected the county leadership that approved it.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been following the plans for the new Braves stadium from the beginning. Take a closer look at what the project means for taxpayers with our in-depth coverage on our premium website for subscribers.


May 2, 2014


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